David Walliams is a literary genius when it comes to children’s literature. I have just finished reading ‘Demon Dentist’ to my little boy Joe, so it is fitting that this is also the week that I was able to see my first Walliams adaptation on the stage. ‘Gangsta Granny’ is his most popular book, and it was brought to life in thrilling and hilarious fashion at the Wolverhampton Grand last night, proving to be a treat for both the young, and they young at heart.
Ben is twelve years old. His parents are a little obsessed with ballroom dancing, which leads to Ben dreading Friday nights, when he is forced to stay with his cabbage obsessed granny. Ben is bored with granny, and dreads their nights of scrabble and cabbage. But one week he decides to visit Granny on a different night of the week, and learns that his kindly old granny is, in fact, The Black Cat, an audacious wanted jewel thief. Ben’s surprise turns to delight, and with granny he plans the most daring jewel heist of them all – the stealing of the crown jewels. But neighbourhood watch menace Mr Parker is hot on their trail, and granny isn’t well. Will they be able to pull off their plan?
Ashley Cousins is perfect as Ben, highly likeable with skill at portraying the problematic relationships between both Ben and his parents, and Ben and his grandma. His later scenes with granny are touching, as the two form a real bond. Granny is the brilliant Gilly Tompkins, think Catherine Tate as nan without the swear words. She is just hilarious, every step she takes seems to be echoed by a fart noise that basically had my 8 year old crying with laughter, but she also brings real pathos to a role that highlights the lonely plight of the elderly, even those who have a family. Her granny is one you could only dream of being related to, plucky, loving and funny with it.
As Mom and Dad, both Sophie Gibbs and Benedict Martin are excellent, especially when showing off their ballroom dancing skills. Martin is also very funny in a David Walliams esque performance of ‘Nosy’ Parker, the slimy, odious neighbourhood watch warden/spy. In the joint role of Raj/Flavio Devesh Kishore raises lots of laughs, particularly with Raj’s bargain buys.
Gangsta Granny is brilliant entertainment for all the family, funny and warm, but not afraid to address real issues pertaining to the elderly and our perceptions of them. You leave the theatre with a warm glow, waiting for the next Walliams adaptation – he truly is the modern day Roald Dahl.